By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As he campaigns for re-election, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul insists he wants his “record to speak for itself.”
Well, it’s talking loud and clear.
The Democrat AG has used the office to push a far left agenda that has expanded executive powers, endangered public safety, and limited individual liberties.
In his three-plus years in office the state’s top prosecutor has joined other liberal attorneys general in making the U.S. Southern border less secure and allowing illegal drugs — specifically fentanyl — to pour into the Badger State. And Kaul has defended government overreach at the state and federal levels, eroding energy independence and costing farmers and manufacturers in rising regulatory costs.
Empower Wisconsin reviewed the past three years of Wisconsin Department of Justice cases and initiatives. The following actions are representative of the far left turn DOJ has taken under Kaul.
Kaul’s drug problem
Just three months into office, Kaul joined a coalition of 20 liberal-led states seeking to block President Trump from re-allocating funds and resources for his border wall. The motion was filed in early April 2019 in the Northern District of California as part of an ongoing lawsuit from Democrat attorneys general.
“The coalition requests the court immediately stop the Trump Administration from diverting $1.6 billion in funding that Congress intended for state and local law enforcement agencies. Through their motion, the states also seek to protect environmental resources that would be imminently harmed by the construction of a border wall on the southern border in New Mexico,” a Kaul press release stated.
In July of that year, Kaul signed on to an amicus brief in another lawsuit challenging Trump’s use of the federal money to construct the wall. Despite the onslaught of left-led litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled the president had the right to use some $6 billion for the wall. Trump’s plan to move the Department of Defense funds was supported by the Pentagon, in large part because of the volume of dangerous illegal drugs pouring in from Mexico.
In the three years since Kaul fought against the construction of the border wall, the rise in fentanyl seizures has risen 4,000 percent. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 2.2 pounds of fentanyl can kill up to 500,000 people. The damage done from the porous U.S. Southern border is measured in tens of thousands of lost lives.
“We recently exceeded 90,000 deaths from illegal drug use in this country in one year, largely driven by the use of fentanyl,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) said in November. “This year, fentanyl has been flooding into the United States in record numbers after President Biden reversed numerous immigration policies of the Trump Administration that were showing positive results.”
Drug overdose deaths in Milwaukee set another record last year, according to the county’s Medical Examiner’s Office. The country reported 643 drug overdose deaths in 2021, up nearly 100 from the previous record year. Around 80 percent of the drug deaths logged contained the opioid fentanyl.
“This stark increase is yet another reminder in a very vivid way of the number of lives that we’ve lost to this just in Milwaukee County alone,” Sara Schreiber, the office’s technical forensic director told Wisconsin Public Radio.
One of Kaul’s biggest campaign promises was that he would lead the charge in combatting the opioid epidemic. Things have gotten a lot worse on that front in his three-plus years in office.
Kaul likes to take credit for the multi-state lawsuit that netted Wisconsin $420 million over the next 18 years as part of a total nation-wide $26 billion settlement with opioid distributors and manufacturers.
But Washington County Executive Josh Schoemann, a Republican, told the Wisconsin State Journal Kaul was a “huge obstacle” in the settlement.
“They (the Department of Justice) literally did nothing nothing nothing until it was becoming clear there was going to be a settlement,” he said.
Attacking energy independence
Kaul was quick to jump on the extreme environmentalist train to shut down Canada-based Enbridge Energy’s critical Line 5 pipeline. In June 2019, Kaul’s liberal counterpart in Michigan sued Enbridge and asked a Michigan court to shut down the pipeline that carries as much as 540,000 barrels of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids a day through Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.
Wisconsin’s activist attorney general signed on to the lawsuit to ensure that a precedent was set for states to “step up and play a role in protecting out natural resources…”
Kaul joined Democratic attorneys general in Minnesota and California claiming Enbridge “has no right to interfere with Michigan’s right to preserve its lands for public benefit under the public trust doctrine,” according to Wisconsin Public Radio. “They urged a Michigan court to reject claims by Enbridge that the federal government’s authority through the Pipeline Safety Act and U.S. Coast Guard supersedes state authority.”
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has joined other industry and consumer advocates in the fight to keep the critical supply line open.
“The proposed shutdown of Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac would have a substantial negative impact to their member businesses, their employees, and residents of Canada and the United States, including those of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin,” WMC argued in a brief.
Inflation has soared to 40-year highs, driven in large part by surging energy and fuel prices. Heating oil and propane prices were projected to climb as much as 50 percent over the run of the heating season. Such high prices have much to do with Biden administration policies that are turning the U.S. from a net energy exporter back into an importer. Lawsuits attacking U.S. domestic energy projection, like the one Kaul injected Wisconsin into, don’t help in the war on inflation.
Waters of the United States Act
In May 2019, Kaul withdrew Wisconsin from a case challenging the Waters of the United States Act (WOTUS). He took the environmental extremist position, arguing the case would weaken the protection of Wisconsin waters.
’We need to make our water cleaner,’ Kaul said in a press release. ‘By withdrawing from this lawsuit, we’ve ended the State of Wisconsin’s involvement in an effort to weaken the protection of our water.”
What he and environmental actvists sought was more government control over private property. Waters of the United States is a threshold term in the Clean Water Act that “establishes the scope of federal jurisdiction,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The American Farm Bureau opposed the definition, promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015, noting the sweeping power it gives federal agencies. It noted the rule grants the federal government regulatory control over virtually any waters – and many land areas that only temporarily hold water – assuming a scope of authority Congress never authorized.
“It effectively eliminates any constraints the term ‘navigable’ previously imposed on the agencies’ Clean Water Act jurisdiction, and few, if any, waters would fall outside of federal control,” the Farm Bureau argued.
More so, the rule created confusion and gave federal agencies the discretion to regulate any low spot where rainwater collects, including farm ditches, temporary drainages, farm ponds and isolated wetlands found in and near farms and ranches — “no matter how small or seemingly unconnected they may be to true ‘navigable waters.’”
Less than four months after Kaul removed Wisconsin from the WOTUS lawsuit, a federal court ruled in favor of Georgia, which led the case against the Obama administration rule. In keeping an injunction against the rule in place, the court found the abusive government action “extend[ed] the Agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the [Clean Water Act]” in a number of ways and also violated multiple procedural requirements for issuing the Rule set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act.”
“Time and again Attorney General Kaul has refused to do his job and instead sided with liberal special interest groups that are aiming to reverse state law,” then- state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said of Kaul’s liberal activism in May 2019.